Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Spotlight On...J.Stephen Brantley

Name: J.Stephen Brantley

Hometown: San Antonio, Texas

Education: New York University, Tisch School Of The Arts, Experimental Theatre Wing

Favorite Credits: Theatre 167’s Jackson Heights 3am and PIRIRA, CapsLock’s Mrs. Mayfield’s Fifth-Grade Class of ’93 20-Year Reunion, Kathleen Warnock’s That’s Her Way at Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, Neo-Political Cowgirls’ EVE, and Slap & Tickle at Provincetown Theater.

Why theater?: Because my only other interests were pornography or priesthood, and I’m slightly underqualified for either position.

Tell us about Chicken-Fried Ciccone?: Chicken-Fried Ciccone is a one-man-show that tells the true story of my own addiction to and recovery from heroin, set to acoustic covers of Madonna songs. I sing and play pieces from all thirteen of her albums, and reveal a ton of embarrassing things about myself. It’s dirty and funny and a little dark, but ultimately it’s about personal transformation and the healing power of making art. Turning our ugliest truths into something beautiful. Reinvention. Living to tell. I wrote it, I perform it, I produced it, but I’m leaving its direction to Obie-winning master of the one-man-show, David Drake. David’s solo piece The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me had a major impact on me as both an actor and a playwright when I first came to NYC. Getting to work with him on David Parr’s Slap & Tickle a couple years back in Provincetown was a dream come true. He continues to inspire me with his latest creation, Tawny Heatherton. Tawny always finds the Light, even in the darkest places. I think that’s what we’re aiming to do with Chicken-Fried Ciccone.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I like plays that break the rules. I’m not much for naturalism; I’m more interested in truth than reality. I want stories that challenge our preconceived notions about one another and I want these stories told in surprising ways, in new spaces, in a multitude of languages. And I like very physical stuff, like National Theatre Of Scotland’s Black Watch or the hybridized forms of companies like Big Dance and Punchdrunk and The Wooster Group.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Madonna. Obviously.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Currently running? Wow, I’ve hardly seen anything, I’m always in rehearsal. The Skype Show is great. I’m looking forward to The Unlikely Ascent Of Sybil Stevens. If we’re talking Broadway, Pippin and No Man’s Land. Off-Broadway, Sleep No More. I want to see this Kate Tempest thing at St. Ann’s.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Well, I would play myself, of course, and it would be called Chicken-Fried Ciccone: A Twangy True Tale Of Transformation, wouldn’t it?

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:
Madonna. Obviously.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: See above. No, it’s actually "Know Your Rights" by The Clash. But the Sticky & Sweet live recording of "Borderline" is a very close second.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Dead or in jail.

What’s up next?: I’m writing some new stuff with Theatre 167 and then I’m going up to Maine for a couple of shows at Stonington Opera House where I’ll return to the role of Friar Laurence in Romeo & Juliet twenty-eight years after I first played it. I’m also Mercutio in the play’s sequel, Romeo & Juliet & Zombies by Melody Bates. Seriously - undead cannibals, Elizabethan verse. Theater really is more fun than drugs.